If you asked, orthodontics would not rank among the top professionals that people consider when dealing with a speech defect or impediment. Most people would consult with a speech therapist, psychologist, and even a neurologist without ever considering how important the teeth are in the formation of words and hence to the use of language – in other words in speech itself. When a person has some form of impediment that causes their speech patterns to be hindered, or even slowed down, it is considered to be a speech impediment. More common among children, speech impediments can be brought on by a number of different causes, including hearing issues, neurological disorders, and psychological or learning disorders. However, an often ignored reason some people have speech impediments comes from the teeth.
Orthodontics cannot cure hearing issues or neurological issues, but there is one very common speech impediment causing condition that your orthodontist can most certainly assist with correcting. Known as a dental malocclusion among dentists, this condition is a classic case of the teeth not being aligned. Teeth are designed to be aligned perfectly so that a person can chew and speak correctly. When the alignment is off, or not aligning properly, it can cause problems with speech.
When you have a dental malocclusion, it will generally be obvious because of the way the teeth are sitting in the mouth. In order to know how severe the malocclusion is, you will need to see a dentist and get a referral for orthodontics. A dental malocclusion affects the placement of your tongue, which in turn creates difficulty in pronouncing alveolar sounds such as n, d, and t. The severity of your misaligned teeth can directly impact how much problem you have forming these sounds and hence how much difficulty you will have with speaking clearly.
The good news is that a malocclusion is a very correctable problem, which we can deal with effectively using braces. Before starting your corrective treatment, you will need to schedule an orthodontic appointment to find out how much of your speech impediment is being caused by the misalignment of your teeth. During the appointment, we will have an opportunity to examine the severity of your malocclusion, explain to you the impact that it is having on your speech and oral health, and recommend a path forward to correct this defect. In most cases, braces are advised, but occasionally we find that, in severe cases, orthodontic surgery may be required.
Braces have come a long way since a dentist first started using them to correct defects in tooth alignment. Today we can use clear or virtually invisible braces to correct your malocclusion, and potentially remove any speech impediments being caused by this defect. Once we have had the opportunity to work with you and correct the misalignment of your teeth, you will still need to meet with a speech therapist who can teach you to form the words that you will now, physically at least, have no trouble saying.
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